Manresa Bread is a must-stop any day of the week. But come holidays, it shines even more.
That’s what I discovered when I dropped by last week to pick up Valentine’s Day treats. It pays to heed the window for early pre-ordering, too, as popular items will sell out fast.
Pastry Chef-Founder Avery Ruzicka built a reputation for her outstanding breads, made with organic flour milled on site. Those are a must-purchase, especially the profoundly crusty baguette, which quite frankly is a steal for $4, and the oblong levain ($9) with such depth of flavor from a combination of organic whole wheat, organic white, and organic rye flours in concert with a sourdough starter.
Admittedly, I was there for two holiday items in particular: the 6-inch chocolate silk pie ($22), and the Basque cheesecake ($35).
When chef-owner Rob Lam closed his Butterfly restaurant on the Embarcadero in 2017 after 15 years, he thought it marked the end of his era in San Francisco.
In fact, his Perle Wine Bar opened to acclaim soon after in Oakland’s Montclair neighborhood. But when family friends, sisters Lucy and Lily Lieu, asked him to take a look at a building they had just purchased on Clement Street in San Francisco, he fell hard for the first-floor restaurant space.
The result is Lily, which opened in October — yes, smack in the middle of the pandemic. It is the first restaurant for the two sisters, as well as Lam’s first one centered solely on Vietnamese cuisine rather than pan-Asian or French-influenced fare as he’s done in the past. Both he and the Lieu sisters, all of whom hail from Vietnam, want to present the true, bold flavors of their native cuisine without watering them down like they find so many other area restaurants are apt to do.
They invited me to come by recently to try some menu items gratis. While Lam has visions of offering both a la carte and a special family-style dinner once life gets back to normal, right now Lily offers only takeout at lunch and dinner.
The French Dip Pho Bo Banh Mi ($17) is a mash-up of a French Dip sandwich and deconstructed pho — and it is most excellent. A crunchy yet yielding roll is packed with thinly sliced, melt-in-your-mouth, five-spice-scented roast beef, house-made pate, a smear of hoisin for sweetness, pickled daikon and carrots for crunch, and shallot mayo for creaminess. A bowl of pho au jus dipping sauce is definitely made for more than just dunking the sandwich in. You’ll want to take a spoon to this to get every last drop of the broth that’s cooked with beef and chicken bones for 12 hours.
Feast your eyes on the butterscotch-lime croissant at Butterscots.
If you’re a baked-good fiend like I am, Butterscots Bakery in St. Helena is definitely worth a stop when you’re in Wine Country.
It’s part of the Cairdean Estate, which took over and repurposed the old St. Helena Outlet mall. When I dined at the wonderful The Farmer & The Fox restaurant on-site a few months ago, my only regret was that I was there in the evening, when Butterscotts Bakery had already closed.
On a recent trip to Napa, I made up for that by making a beeline to the bakery to buy a couple of goodies. The bakery is overseen by Joseph Humphrey, who is also the executive chef of The Farmer & The Fox. Humphrey, who earned two Michelin stars at The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, knows his baked goods. His popovers at the restaurant are the stuff of dreams.